Residents call for protected street parking in busy blocks around ‘greenest office building in the world’

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 10.56.11 AMBy Joy Chu, UW News Lab / Special to CHS

The blocks around the innovative Bullitt Center suffer from an old-school urban problem — it’s tough to find a place to park.

Tuesday night, residents and workers around 15th and Madison’s Bullitt Center had their say about a proposed expansion of a restricted parking zone that limits the time cars from outside the neighborhood can be parked on the street in the area.

The main concern of the evening was from Capitol Hill residents about the lack of parking in their neighborhoods, which they blamed on commuters working in the vicinity.

Some residents spoke out against employees of the Bullitt Center, saying that when it was initially built employees and visitors wouldn’t park in their neighborhood spots but that behavior has since shifted.

Meanwhile, commuter Rosie Heffernan said that between the Bullitt Center, Temple De Hirsch Sinai, the expanding Seattle Academy, and the businesses that sandwich this section on all sides, she has a tough time finding parking for work. Bussing is not an option, she said, because there are no direct busses that go to this part of the neighborhood.

“Our usual overflow has been ‘Zone 2’d’ so we no longer have a place to park,” said Heffernan.

The RPZ program also can make permits available to employees of local businesses and organizations.

SDOT supervisor Margot Polley used her time Tuesday night to encourage attendees to reevaluate car ownership.

“As density increases, not everyone can have a car and drive everywhere. There are no easy solutions when it comes to balancing everyone’s needs and limited curb space,” said Polley.

The Capitol Hill Community Council, on behalf of a citizen who proposed the expansion, requested the City of Seattle to make more blocks eligible for Zone 2 parking through the Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) Program. RPZs were created to help ease parking congestion in residential neighborhoods around places that typically have heavy traffic, like hospitals or universities. CHS reported on how the process works here. Other areas where residents have shown interest in Capitol Hill restricted zones include an area around Summit and a block near St. Mark’s.

Like most zoned parking in Seattle, Restricted Parking Zone 2 limits parking to two hours for non-permitted cars Monday to Saturday, 7 AM to 6 PM. However, residents in the neighborhood can apply for a permit, allowing them to park up to 72 hours.

A typical residential RPZ permit costs $65 and are good for “a 2-year cycle” — in RPZ 2, the cost for areas south of E Union is $16 thanks to subsidies from Swedish and Seattle University. Guest permits cost $30. Here’s where you can look up RPZ information by address. The program has been reviewed and modified over the years and zones are sometimes added or extended.

The RPZ 2 extension, because of its size, is required to go through a public comment process.

Bullitt Center employee Deborah Sigler suggested the expansion could be modeled after Wallingford’s Zone 5 parking, where parking during business hours is restricted but residents have access to permit parking from 5 PM to midnight.

“We don’t live in a vacuum… there’s going to be change,” she said. “With the Light Rail coming in, I think some of the impact of parking will be relieved. A lot of people in the Bullitt Center and in this neighborhood will be taking the light rail to work,” said Sigler.

But parking congestion isn’t limited to just the work week.

A neighborhood resident complained that people visiting the bars and restaurants in the evenings and weekends added to the parking problems and loud noise conditions as well.

“We have vibrant neighborhoods,” Polley said. “We want people to come over, and be a part of the nightlife. So right now we are trying to balance that with people who need to park after they come home from work in the evening.”

Public comment will be taken through the end of February by email at ruth.harper@seattle.gov  and at (206) 684-8186. A decision on whether to expand Zone 2 parking will likely be reached by this summer.

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

22 thoughts on “Residents call for protected street parking in busy blocks around ‘greenest office building in the world’

  1. “Bussing is not an option, she said, because there are no direct busses that go to this part of the neighborhood.”

    Bus routes 10, 11 and 2 are about walking distance to that part of the neighborhood.

    • i think she meant, “there’s no bus that will pick me up at my front door and drive me directly to the place i want to go.”

    • Let’s not forget that “walking distance” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. If someone has chronic pain, a mobility impairment, or episodic pain from an old injury, their version of walking distance is usually going to be different, or shorter, than it would be for, say, an athletic person.

    • @Robin, the person they were referring to claimed she typically rode her bike from West Seattle but sometimes drove because she would have to transfer … my eyes are rolling even as I type this.

    • Robin, while I understand your point … this particular person claimed she rode her bike from West Seattle, where she lives regularly and complained that for her to take the bus required a transfer and it just takes too long.

  2. Interestingly, there are an abundance of parking places at night in most of this area, especially along Union and 19th. I fail to see how commuter parking complicates things unless residents are trying to park their cars in the early morning hours or during the day. It’s not like commuters leave their cars there overnight.

    As for transit, there are bus routes 2, 10 (moving though), 11, and 12 right there. I have no idea what Rosie is talking about. Hell, even the 48 or 49 are viable options if you’re willing to walk a bit.

    • parking is only bad for residents if you leave in the morning, to say, take your kids to school, run to a Dr appt, go grocery shopping, work in evenings and run errands in the day, work from home, have anyone coming to work on your house … if you leave in your car, your spot will immediately be taken by a construction worker for a nearby project, a commuter driving in who then dashes for the bus stop, a commuter who waits for their buddies to pick them up so they can get in on carpool parking deals 4-5 blocks away .. need I go on?

  3. Glad people beat me to listing the bus routes. There’s not a lack of buses in that area, though I would probably consider driving or walking if my commute required taking the 2.

  4. What the commuter means when she talks about the perceived scarcity of parking for commuters is “free parking”. I believe that within slightly less than two blocks of the Bullitt Center there is a paid parking lot, and in the surrounding area there a dozens, if not hundreds of parking spaces in managed parking lots.

    • With all the amazing green bonafides happening at the Bullitt Center, certainly the least we can grant them is free parking for their single occupancy vehicle!

  5. “As density increases, not everyone can have a car and drive everywhere.”

    Translation: As density increases (from rich people moving in) you poor sods get what you get. The rich people can pay for parking in a paid lot or use uber daily.

  6. A person that says there aren’t any good bus routes (maybe they mean 1 seat rides from their home?) to that particular block have zero intention of using/liking public transit. That is a well served corridor, even just considering the 10, 11, 12. If you work there, you should consider yourself very, very transit blessed.

    • They are talking about how they don’t have any stops near their house to pick them up in the first place. There is a good chance they live outside of the city and may live nowhere near a bus route heading in to town.

  7. King County’s site lists 140 Park & Ride locations in King County alone. It is very unlikely the person who has such a hard time finding (free) parking near here lives close enough to a P&R to drive to it and catch a bus. During peak hours transfer waits from downtown (where most of the suburban routes go) to the many bus lines that run within walking distance of this area are not very long at all. If this person has mobility issues, she can ask for the city to add restricted handicap-only parking spots in the area. I just saw one being installed on near Bullitt this afternoon (i.e., they just stuck a sign on a post at the designated parking spot).

    • Whose houses are you going to tear down? Which businesses? Who will enjoy living next to them?

      How much will they cost? How are we going to pay for them? How much will the charge be?

      Will it be more or less than the many existing private lots with plenty of unused capacity?

  8. While it is true that a number of bus routes serve this area, we all need to be honest about the fact that transfer times on Metro are never reliable. I have had problems with the 2, 3, 8 and 48. All it takes to create a major problem is for your first bus to be a few minutes late, causing you to miss your transfer. Then you have a minimum wait of 15 minutes (but often longer) for the next transfer bus. Depending on the route, it is not uncommon for that bus to be running late, sometimes up to 45-50 minutes. People should drive less, but we have to acknowledge that it sucks to be stuck standing on a curb somewhere for 50-75 minutes, and that is a deterrent to the use of public transit. If there were a couple of things we could do right now to get people to use their cars less, they would be to increase bus frequency and get the problem of transfer times solved.

  9. My family lives less than a block from the Bullitt Center and we share 1 car between 3 adults. Before the Bullitt Center was built, parking really was not a big problem for us. We are fine parking blocks away from our house, and use the car infrequently enough that it was not a big deal. Then the “Greenest Building in the World” came along, and parking got really tight. Many neighbors are angry that during planning meetings for the Bullitt Center, we were assured that even though they were constructing a large office building with *no parking* (because they are so “green,” they talked the City into allowing this) there would be no negative impact on parking in the neighborhood because their policy would be to require workers in the Center to take mass transit, bike or walk to work. For this reason, I found it really tacky that there were Bullitt Center employees at this meeting complaining about the lack of free parking. Seems like super bad publicity for the Center.

  10. It just shows you that promises made in DPD review meetings are worth as much as the delicious refreshments they serve at the meetings. i.e. not much.

    there are various tenants at Bullit and they host a lot of meetings with non-tenants coming to these meetings. that could be part of the crunch